The Top 10 Supplements That Everyone Should Take
By: Dave Asprey
December 4, 2020
- The best supplements provide you with essential nutrients so that you can tap into your full potential, every day.
- It’s easy to get it wrong, though. A lot of supplements are cheaply made, low-quality and do more harm than good.
- Here’s an overview of the problems with generic supplements, how to pick the right ones and the list of the most important supplements almost everyone should take.
There are three groups of people when it comes to supplements.
The first group shuns all forms of supplementation because “it isn’t natural” or because “cavemen didn’t have supplements.” They aim to get all of their nutrients from food, but often come up short.
The second group thinks supplements can make up for a crappy diet and high stress levels.
The final group is somewhere in between. In my opinion, this is the best place to be.
Supplements are a double-edged sword. The wrong ones can do more damage than good. But the right best supplements can massively improve your health, even if you already eat a nutrient-dense diet.
In this article, you’re going to get an overview of the problems with generic supplements, how to pick the right ones and the top 10 supplements almost everyone should take.
First things first: Throw away your multivitamin
Half of the U.S. population takes a multivitamin, and many people seem to think multivitamins are the first line of defense against malnutrition and disease. In fact, the opposite is true. Multivitamins can actually do more harm than good.
Here are the three main reasons to choose targeted, individualized supplementation over multivitamins:
1. You’ll get the wrong amounts of vitamins and minerals
Most multivitamins have too much of some nutrients, like vitamin A or B6, and not enough of others like magnesium. The result? You overdose on some nutrients, while not getting enough of others.
Some manufacturers will use very small amounts of expensive nutrients so they can list them on the label. Average consumers don’t notice the meaningless amounts of these nutrients—they only see what’s on the package.
The truth is that there is no way to fit a “complete spectrum” of nutrients in one single pill. There is a way to formulate supplements that contain science-backed, efficacious doses of targeted ingredients. That’s what you get with Bulletproof supplements.
2. Most multivitamins are low quality
Nutrients come in different forms that behave differently inside your body.
Here’s an example: Folate is an essential B vitamin, but folic acid, the kind found in generic multivitamins, can cause a lot of problems. If you have the MTHFR gene mutation, and over half of people do, folic acid will make you tired and weak. It also increases your risk of certain cancers. This may be why some studies show no health benefit to taking multivitamins, and others suggest an increase in mortality. 
Then you have inactive ingredients. Many multivitamins are made with fillers and additives that make it hard for your body to even absorb the nutrients. So, even if they have the right amount of a nutrient on the label, very little may reach your cells.
In the end, you get what you pay for with supplements. You can buy the generic multivitamins at a big box store, or you can spend a little extra to get supplements made with quality ingredients, no artificial fillers and meaningful doses of bioavailable nutrients.
3. Multivitamins aren’t formulated for you
Your nutritional needs vary depending on your sex, whether or not you’re pregnant, your activity levels, your age…the list goes on. Most multivitamins market a single formula for adults. There are very few people that a basic “adult” formula will work for. A mom with two kids and a full-time job is going to need a different spectrum of nutrients than a professional athlete.
It’s true that people can benefit from taking supplements to make up for the nutrients that are often missing our diets. But instead of reaching for a multivitamin, work with your healthcare professional to figure out what you’re actually deficient in. That usually starts with a blood test, which will determine your baseline levels of essential vitamins and minerals—and give you an individualized blueprint for supplementation.
How to start supplementing
Before we get into the exact supplements you should take, here are some general criteria for supplementation:
Get the majority of your nutrients from food
You don’t eat nutrients—you eat food.
Whole foods behave differently from their individual parts. For instance, the nutrients from a piece of meat are more bioavailable than consuming the equivalent nutrients from a pill or powder. Antioxidants from food are beneficial, but taking high doses of some synthetic antioxidants comes with higher risks for adverse health conditions.
The nutrients in food work together in a process known as food synergy. In short, this means food is more powerful than the sum of its parts. That’s why it’s important to start with a nutrient-dense diet, then supplement specific nutrients according to your specific needs and goals. You get the best nutrients from whole foods. Everything else should just fill in the gaps.
When in doubt, go without
Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it can’t be harmful or have side effects. It’s possible to overdo even the most natural herbal supplements or food-based vitamins and minerals. And supplements are not immune from heavy metals, contaminants and byproducts from processing—which is why you want to make sure you’re getting high-quality supplements.
Always check the sourcing and quality of your supplement providers. Bulletproof supplements are made with rigorously selected, science-backed ingredients and are always free of soy, gluten and artificial fillers.
What supplements should you take?
I take over 100 pills a day, carefully selected for my own needs using blood and urine testing over the last decade. That’s why this isn’t called “the complete guide to supplementation.” This list does not cover my recommendations for nootropics or other brain-enhancing nutrients. These are just the basic supplements that benefit almost everyone.
Bulletproof supplements are based on cutting-edge research and make it easier for you to take these nutrients in their highest-performing form. When available, we’ll link to Bulletproof supplements, and I’ll recommend how to take the others on this list.
The top 10 supplements (almost) everyone should take
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Krill Oil
- Zinc and Copper
- Methyl Folate and Methyl B-12
Vitamin D for strong bones, muscle function and immunity
This isn’t just an essential supplement. The sunshine vitamin is possibly the most important vitamin you need in your daily routine.
Vitamin D acts on over 1,000 different genes and serves as a substrate for sex hormones like testosterone, human growth hormone and estrogen. It moderates immune function and supports a healthy inflammation response. It assists in calcium metabolism and bone formation. It’s no coincidence this is one of the few vitamins humans can make on their own, with a little bit of sunshine. Without it, we’d be toast.
It’s true that you can get adequate vitamin D from sun exposure, but for non-nudist, non-equatorial dwellers, sun exposure alone is not enough. Up north, the right wavelengths don’t reach you during the winter months.
If you’re concerned about toxicity from supplementation, make sure to get your vitamin D level tested and consult a physician about the appropriate amount to take based on your blood test result.
- Suggested dose: 1,000 IU per 25 pounds of body weight*
- Form: Vitamin D3 with vitamin K (which is what you get with Bulletproof Vitamins A-D-K)
- When to take it: In the morning
*Your skin tone affects your dose. People with darker skin don’t convert sunlight into vitamin D as quickly as lighter-skinned people. If you have darker skin, a safe bet is 1,500 IU per 25 pounds of body weight. No matter your skin color, always test your blood levels because your individual response to dosage may vary.
Vitamin K2 for bone health and heart health
Unless you grew up eating only grass-fed meat and raw milk, you’re probably deficient in vitamin K2.
Vitamin K2 is a fat-soluble vitamin involved in calcium metabolism. Excess calcium is deposited in your arteries, leading to calcification and decreased vascular function. This is part of the reason you want to take vitamin K with vitamin D: These vitamins work together to play a critical role in calcium transport and absorption.
Vitamin K1 is the kind of vitamin K found in leafy veggies, and vitamin K2 is the kind found in grass-fed animal products. Ruminant animals like cows and sheep convert K1 into K2 in their stomachs, but humans don’t convert K1 to K2 as efficiently. Just another reason to go with grass-fed: Animals can only get K1 from grass, not grains.
There are two subsets of vitamin K2: MK-4 and MK-7. MK-4 is the kind shown to produce the most benefit, but MK-7 is still important. You should consume a total of at least 2,000 mcg per day of K1 and K2, at least 100 mcg of which should be the MK-7 form.
- Suggested dose: 2,000 mcg per day (100 mcg MK-7 form)
- Forms: MK-4 and MK-7 (found in Bulletproof Vitamins A-D-K)
- When to take it: Once daily with food and your vitamin D supplement
Vitamin A for immunity, vision and reproductive health
Vitamin A is essential if you don’t eat organ meats like beef liver, kidney and heart. This vitamin is an important cofactor for numerous metabolic reactions and bodily functions. A quarter of Americans consume less than half the RDA of vitamin A, which is already too low.
An important thing to remember is that you can’t get vitamin A from plants. Plants don’t have vitamin A—they have beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is poorly converted into vitamin A, which is why some populations develop vitamin A deficiency despite consuming far more than they should have required. Vegetables are definitely part of a healthy diet, but sorry—carrots alone aren’t going to cut it.
- Suggested dose: 3,000-10,000 IU per day
- Forms: Retinol (which you’ll find as retinyl palmitate in Vitamins A-D-K)
- When to take it: With meals
Vitamin C for immune function and to combat oxidative stress
This is one of the safest, most effective dietary supplements you can take. Vitamin C is needed for collagen and connective tissue formation. It’s used to manufacture glutathione, the most powerful antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C can enhance immune function and help fight free radical damage.
It’s hard to get enough vitamin C from food, which is why 30% of the population is deficient. Some fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, but cooking and storage methods can deplete vitamin C content.
Supplementation with at least 500 mg per day is optimal. You should take more if you are suffering from chronic infections or healing from injury.
- Suggested dose: 1-2 grams / day
- Forms: Ascorbic acid or liposomal vitamin C
- When to take it: In the morning and evening
Iodine for your thyroid, brain and immune system
Iodine is crucial for proper thyroid function and metabolism. It also enhances immune function and prevents brain damage. Iodine deficiency is widespread, so supplementation is a good idea. Physically active people are at especially high risk for deficiency because you lose iodine through sweat.
You can get some iodine from seafood, but unless you’re eating it with every meal, you probably won’t get enough. If you have a thyroid condition, consult your healthcare provider before you supplement with iodine.
- Suggested dose: 150 mcg to 1000 mcg (1 mg) per day
- Forms: Kelp powder sourced from clean waters or potassium iodide capsules
- When to take it: Once daily with food
Omega-3 fatty acids for your brain, heart and skin
Humans need 350 mg of DHA and EPA a day to have optimal brain function. The problem is that most people don’t get nearly enough omega-3s through diet alone.
If you’re eating grass-fed meat and wild-caught fish several times a week, you’ll get there. If you can’t find grass-fed meat or wild-caught seafood, you should supplement with 500-1000 mg of krill oil per day.
Why krill oil? Not all omega-3 supplements are the same. Some of the brands you’ll see at your local grocery store are contaminated, oxidized and not very potent. That’s why I reach for the combination of fish oil and krill oil found in Bulletproof Omega Krill Complex.
Krill oil is a stable source of omega-3s. It’s phosphorylated, meaning it’s easier for your brain to use. It also comes with astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant. And when you combine it with fish oil, you get the full count of essential fatty acids in one supplement.
- Suggested dose: At least 2000 mg per day (get it with Bulletproof Omega Krill Complex)
- Forms: Krill and fish oil blend
- When to take it: With meals
Magnesium for everything from energy to brain function
This is almost as important as vitamin D, and almost as underappreciated. Magnesium is used in over 300 enzymatic processes, including all of those involved in ATP (energy) production. It’s also vital for proper transcription of DNA and RNA.
Magnesium deficiency is a serious problem, and almost all Americans aren’t getting enough of it. Symptoms include headaches, muscle cramps, nausea and migraines—pretty much everything you don’t want.
The majority of people don’t meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is already too low. Due to soil depletion and poor farming practices, it’s almost impossible to get enough magnesium from diet alone. Without a doubt, everyone should supplement with magnesium.
- Suggested dose: 200-800mg per day (start low and work your way up)
- Forms: Citrate, malate, glycinate, threonate or orotate (find out how to choose the best magnesium supplement)
- When to take it: Before bedtime
L-tyrosine for mood
This amino acid boosts mood, cognition, physical and mental stress response and healthy glandular function. L-tyrosine quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier to increase the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It’s also a building block for thyroid hormone.
Your body can make L-tyrosine, but it depletes when you’re stressed—and with modern living, most people’s production can’t keep up. Studies have shown that cadets in combat training supplementing with L-tyrosine had reduced negative effects from physical and psychosocial stress on mental performance. You can get tyrosine in complete protein sources like beef, chicken, fish and even whey protein supplements, but for targeted support and overall wellness, I recommend taking a dedicated supplement.
- Suggested dose: 500-2000mg per day
- Forms: Pure L-Tyrosine
- When to take it: Whenever you want
Zinc with copper for your immunity and energy
Zinc and copper both serve hundreds of critical tasks to keep you healthy, and I take them together for a couple reasons:
- Too much zinc can decrease copper levels in your body
- Together, zinc and copper form the antioxidant copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), one of your body’s most critical natural defense mechanisms
Zinc is a key mineral in the support of healthy immune function, energy production and mood. It’s important to take it as a supplement because it can be tough to get a meaningful amount from food, and your body doesn’t store it, meaning you need to replenish each day.
You need copper to work in conjunction with zinc, and for proper vascular and heart function. Most adults in the United States are woefully deficient in copper, consuming only 0.8 mg per day.
Copper intake has fallen over the last century due to modern farming and dietary practices. Modern fruits, vegetables, and conventional meats are low in copper, containing 75% less than they used to.
- Suggested dose: 15mg zinc orotate and 1-2mg copper orotate per day. Get science-backed doses of both in Bulletproof Zinc With Copper
- Form: Capsule
- When to take it: Outside of meals or supplements containing iron, calcium and phytates, which can decrease absorption of zinc
Methyl B-12 and Methyl Folate for brain power
Most people are deficient in vitamin B12, but your B vitamins are vital because they support healthy cells, nerve function and energy production.
One of the most crucial areas for B-12 is the brain. It’s necessary for maintaining the methylation reactions that help repair DNA. Vitamin B-12 may also help lower homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage blood vessels in high quantities.
Methyl B-12 is methylcobalamin, a form of vitamin B-12 that’s easier for your body to use. Take it with folate, a form of vitamin B9. Folate supports a healthy heart and nervous system. You want balanced doses of both to maintain brain health, so take them together.
- Suggested dose: One Bulletproof Methyl B-12 lozenge daily and at least 800 mcg of folate (5-MTHF or folinic acid, not folic acid)
- Forms: Capsule and/or lozenge
- When to take it: Daily with food
The list above was a small portion of supplements to consider taking. They’ll provide you with a strong foundation as you try other forms of supplementation, such as energy supplements like creatine, other vitamins like vitamin E and gut health supplements like probiotics.
Supplementation is something everyone should do, but how much depends on your diet and other lifestyle factors. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your healthcare provider (and dietitian) to figure out an individualized plan that works for you.
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This article has been updated with new content.